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Definition Claims1

By Ronald Slusky

Ronald Slusky mentored dozens of attorneys in “old school” invention analysis and claiming principles over a 31-year career at Bell Laboratories. He is now in private practice in New York City. This article is adapted from his book “Invention Analysis and Claiming: A Patent Lawyer’s Guide” published by the American Bar Association and available at all online bookstores. More information about the book can be found at www.claim- Ron can be reached at 212-246-4546 and


Dependent claims come in different “flavors,” depending on the function they are intended to serve.

Most common is the fallback feature claim, which recites feature(s) that we believe may add something new and non-obvious to a parent claim. Fallback feature claims anticipate the possibility that prior art teaching the subject matter defined by the parent claim may surface after the application is filed, rendering the parent claim unpatentable (during prosecution) or invalid (after issuance). A fallback feature claim intentionally retreats from the boundaries defined by its parent claim to a narrower but possibly more patentably secure position.2

This month’s column focuses on another type of dependent claim&mdas...

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